The Purpose of Creation

What is the Purpose of Creation? This is an oft-debated question by some of the most brilliant minds in Christendom throughout the ages and, before Christendom, also in Judaism for Millennia before Christ. We have received only a couple reasons for the purpose of creation. The most common answer given by scholars throughout the ages is to glorify God (or some synonymic phrase thereof). I think this particular answer is not entirely accurate. I’ve hinted before at this thought and now wish to fully put it forward.

One important fact, before heading further into this subject, is the Triune God is the only form of a monotheistic god which would create as we have seen it. A unitarian god either has no reason to create, or is simply a creator god and therefore cannot stop creating. Dr. Michael Reeves in his short book Delighting in the Trinity has the best argument for this and rather than taking up valuable space to rehash his argument I will simply direct you to his book. Suffice it to say we can take solace in the fact of creation as one proof of the Trinity, and we will return to this fact later.

To return to our main purpose in writing: Catholic and Orthodox minds have provided the main answer to this question. The Catholic Church in their catechism gives the answer to this question as “Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: ‘The world was made for the glory of God.’ ” The Orthodox Church is more complicated than the Catholic as there is not one leader, but it is a confraternity of different churches. In its American version besides calling this a mystery, it goes on to say “The first purpose of man is the glory of God.”

This has been the working premise since very early on in the history of Christendom. However, the problem is, is there is a deeper meaning. If we take a look at the whole witness of Scripture, we have something else being presented. While, yes, the creation does bring glory to God (see Gen 1:1–2:3; Ps 19:1; Is 6:3, 43:6-7 among others). However, this is not the main purpose of the creation. I would say Christendom historically and in the present age has missed the boat on the purpose of creation. Now, I have seen some try to rectify this problem by explaining the how of bringing glory to God, but even this tends to fall flat. If glory – which is defined as 1. very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent; renown; 2. something that is a source of honor, fame, or admiration; a distinguished ornament or an object of pride; or 3. adoring praise or worshipful thanksgiving – is the purpose then we leave ourselves open to arguments which are impossible to rectify.

If we define glorifying God as the New City Catechism does in their sixth question “We glorify God by enjoying him, loving him, trusting him, and by obeying his will, commands, and law” then not only do we fall flat but we also define the word glory in a way which is outside the definition of the word itself. And the only supporting verse which is quoted is from the Old Testament law (Deut 11:1) something which we know we are unable to actually keep. However, I wish to point out to you the most important thing in this creation is the purpose of this creation. That is relationships, as far as creation is concerned this would be the all-important relationship with the Lord God. We can see the witness of this in God’s creating them in Genesis 1 and the expansion of this in Genesis 2. God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” God is not alone but in the perfect relationship of all eternity as the Trinity. So, God made us for a relational reason then as well. I would say God exists eternally in the Trinity, in perfect unity and eternally as love (1 John 4:8). If God exists as such then He does not need anything. He created out of a desire to spread this love further and to have others participate in this love.

This is the purpose of creation! This is the whole reason for Christ’s incarnation, to bring about this relationship. A relationship which was lost at the fall. Humankind was created to be in a full relationship with God. If we see this, it changes everything about how we look at the Scriptures. Key passages start coming forth as a clue for us. First and foremost: What are the greatest commandments? The greatest commandment was not Deuteronomy 11:1 “You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always,” which is used to support how we are to bring glory to God by the New City Catechism. But the first and greatest commandment is Deuteronomy 6:4–5: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” And the second is from Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says the whole of the Old Testament depends on these two commandments and Paul says all of the law is summed up and fulfilled in the second one (Rom 3:9-10; Gal 5:14). There is nothing in these two commandments about obedience, or glory. It is about love.

In one step further the Apostle John – the only one to record the upper room discourse – gives us the one and only commandment Christ gave us during his earthly ministry: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This is not really anything new, however, it is a narrowing down of the second greatest commandment. We go from neighbor to specifically our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This commandment is so important John tells us “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” (Stumbling here being sin.) And “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (So, our expression of the second commandment confirms the first.)

We were not put here to bring more glory to God. How much more glory can the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal God receive from the impotent, ignorant, singular, finite creation? We were created to take part in a wonderful relationship with God. To add one final point. God also wants a mature relationship. This is the purpose of our growing and maturing in this physical life. If He didn’t want such a relationship, we would merely be robots preprogrammed for whatever will God desires. This, in many ways, is the reason Believe Better Ministries was named such, and we use the phrase “Believe in Something Better.” This is better than all the religious dogma available to us. I truly do hope you can come to believe in something better, and have a wonderful, beautiful relationship with God. I’ll leave you with the words of John Piper on the purpose of creation: “God created us to know him and love him and show him.”

The Majors and the Minors

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The Majors and the Minors

by Ray B. May IV ~ March, 2018

It has been brought to my attention, that with some recent statements I have made, I may have made some subjects confusing, especially regarding my stance on those subjects. So, first I want to state, for the record, I whole heartedly believe every point listed out on the Believe Better Ministries’ Statement of Faith. I wrote this statement and each word describes my personal beliefs. This is where Believe Better Ministries started. I wrote a paper about feelings I had about Christendom (the special word I use to describe the religion of Christianity as it differs from the Bible and from the people who actually follow Christ).

I wrote this first paper over the course of one night and made this new blog to house it. I wrote it early, early in the morning (between midnight and three in the morning), I remember it vividly as a Thursday night/Friday morning. I had just had a long conversation with a close friend and I was angry, so, I wrote this paper out of anger (not the best frame of mind to be in when writing). This was not when Believe Better Ministries started, but it was when the seed was planted. Believe Better Ministries didn’t really start until the summer, about two years later. This is when things started to coalesce into what is now Believe Better Ministries. This is when I sat down and wrote out my beliefs in order to make sure I would not deviate from them.

I feel pretty secure in not having ever deviated from them over the last three and a half years. However, recently I have written some things which have made some of my brothers and sisters in Christ question whether I was already deviating, or was going to deviate, from them in the future. I must apologize profusely for this. I have never, I repeat never, meant to make anyone feel as if I was moving on ahead (or passed) the Christian Faith. This was not my intent, nor my goal. I was deeply shocked when I received e-mails on this subject.

I want to use this paper to explore contending for the Faith, and, so, I have to ask the question: What parts of the Christian Faith should we earnestly contend for? I had a long chat with two of the Elders of the assembly I attend, recently, and one of them gave me five points of the Christian Faith which he said (and I agree) must be agreed upon to even call one’s self a Christian. (Being nondenominational having these major doctrines to agree upon is so important for it allows us to meet together in love even if we disagree on pet doctrines or other minor points.) This made me think about the Statement of Faith I had written for Believe Better Ministries. I sat down and went through it and most of the points on Believe Better Ministries’ Statement of Faith do correspond to these five points, there are a few (exactly four) which don’t but I still believe them and they are important to me, I digress.

The five beliefs we must share in common are these: The Bible, God, Christ, the Work of Christ, and Our Common Salvation. These are the five which there must be no disagreement on. Confusion? Yes, of course, there will be confusion. Some of these points (as we will see) are pretty confusing. A lack of understanding is rather different from outright denial. (We can – for example – be confused – as I am – on how the Father and the Son are completely one, yet, the Father could turn His back on the Son, or how the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit being one, could separate the Son from themselves (themself?) in order to send the Son to Earth.)

Let’s look at each one of the points now:

1. The Bible: It all starts with the Bible, because everything we know about all the other subjects comes from the Bible. The Bible is the inspired word of God (2 Peter 1:21), which He breathed out (2 Tim 3:16). As I said, everything we know about all the other topics comes from the Bible, so if we cannot believe the Bible, what can we believe about any of the other parts of our faith?

2. God: The Bible takes for granted its readers believe in a deity. Being the Word of God, the expectation is you believe in at least a deity. But, as far as the Bible is concerned the God, who is revealed, is the uniquely one, triune God. We are told time and time, again, our God is one (Deut 4:35; Ps 86:10; 1 Cor 8:4; Gal 3:20; Eph 4:6; 1 Tim 2:15), but He is also triune, which means three in one. He, God, is made up of three distinct persons – Father, Son, and the Spirit – but He is not three gods, but one God. God being three is made clear if we read the Bible and the language it uses to refer to God. (See Matt 3:16-17, 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; Eph 2:18, 3:14-17; Titus 3:4-7; Rev 1:4-6.) This triuneness is vastly important for two reasons: It is the very thing which sets God apart from other gods, and it is the crux of the matter, for with the Triune God being in a relationship (love) with each other (Himself) for all eternity-past (before the creation) He wants more relationships and so created us (See John 17:5, 10-11, 22-26). People can believe in any god they wish to, but they cannot call him/her/it the God of the Bible, unless He is the Triune God of the Bible.

3. Christ: The Lord Jesus Christ was the very God in eternity (John 1:1; Phil 2:6) who became a man in time (John 1:9, 14; Phil 2:7-8; 1 John 4:2). Because of the two natures – God (John 1:1; Phil 2:6) and man (John 1:14; Phil 2:7; 1 John 4:2) – He is complete in His divinity and perfect in His humanity. In his humanity He was anointed by God with the Spirit (Matt 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34) to accomplish God’s purpose. Therefore, He is the Christ (from the Greek Χριστός – Christos which is the Greek translation for the Hebrew Messiah (מָשִׁ֫יחַ – Meshiach) which both mean “Anointed One”), the Anointed of God (John 20:31, 1 John 2:21-22).

He is the Son of God (Matt 3:17; John 1:14, 3:16-18; 1 John 4:10), as such He is the image of the invisible God (John 14:9; Col 1:15), the effulgence of God’s glory (John 1:14) and the very image of God’s substance (Heb 1:3), subsisting in the form of God (Phil 2:6) and was equal with God (John 5:17-18), and all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily (Col 2:9).

As the Son of God, He came in the flesh with the Father (John 6:46 – Greek παρά – para loses a lot of its meaning in translation, it means “from the very presence of” or “beside, in the presence of” or “alongside, of, with”), and in the name of the Father.

As the eternal God, He is the Creator of all things (Heb 1:2; John 1:3; Col 1:16), and as a man who came in the flesh (1 John 4:2), with physical blood, bone, and flesh, He is a creature, the first born of all creation (Col 1:15). Therefore, Jesus is both Creator and creature.

4. The Work of Christ: Christ first became a man in the incarnation (John 1:14; Phil 2:6-8), lived a genuine human life (as recorded in the Gospels), and died on the cross for our redemption (Phil 2:8; 1 Peter 2:24; Rev 5:9). Then, He rose from the dead for our regeneration (John 3:6; Rom 6:11; 2 Cor 5:17; Titus 3:5), ascended to the heavens to be Lord of all (Heb 1:3-4), and will come back (John 14:3; Rev 2:20) as the Bridegroom to the Church (2 Cor 11:2-4; Eph 5:22-33; Rev 21:2, 9-10) and the King of kings to all nations (Rev 5:9-10). No genuine Christian has any argument about these aspects of the work of Christ.

5. Our Common Salvation: A sinner must repent to God (Acts 2:38, 26:20; 1 John 1:5-10; This word repent is a very important, while misunderstood, word, most believe it means feeling sorry for what I’ve done, and so they repent many times – every time they sin – while really it is a changing of who we are to agree with God about our sin (and sin nature), and so it is really only a one-time thing) and believe in Christ (John 3:16; Acts 16:31) for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43; 1 John 1:7), for redemption (Rom 3:24), for justification (John 3:18; Acts 13:39; Rom 8:1), and for regeneration (John 3:6; Rom 6:11; 2 Cor 5:17; Titus 3:5) in order to receive eternal life (John 3:36; Titus 1:2; Titus 3:7; 1 John 5:11) to become a child of God (John 1:21; 1 John 3:1-2) and a member of Christ (1 Cor 12:27). This is our salvation by God through faith (Eph 2:4-9).

Okay, all of this to say what? This is all to show what we should defend, or contend for. I wrote a commentary on the Epistle of Jude, and Jude’s whole point is for us to earnestly contend for our faith (Jude 3). These five points make up a consistent set of beliefs which all Christians – regardless of denomination, ideology, or creed – should agree upon, we could label them the Faith. These, then, are what Jude exhorts us to earnestly contend for.

The word in Jude 3 is ἐπαγωνίζομαι (epagōnízomai) and Jude’s use constitutes the only use of this compound word in all of the New Testament. Jude here is actually putting two other Greek words together: ἐπί (epi) which is a preposition meaning “on, to, against, on the basis of, at”; and ἀγωνίζομαι (agōnízomai) which is a verb meaning “to struggle, strive (as in an athletic contest or warfare), to contend with an adversary”. Those two words when put together bring the meaning “to earnestly contend for”. The editors and translators of the NET Bible have this to say on the word: “the verb ἐπαγωνίζομαι (epagōnízomai) is an intensive form of ἀγωνίζομαι (agōnízomai). As such, the notion of struggling, fighting, contending, etc. is heightened.”

A heightened contention for the faith, then, against those “who crept in secretly” to teach falsities about the faith. The New Testament, again and again, tells us to defend the faith. Peter, the Apostle on whom Jesus built His congregation (Matt 16:18), put in his first epistle: “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for a reason concerning the hope that is in you: (1 Peter 3:15). Always be ready! Why? Because in Peter’s own words: “Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Paul tells us to take no part in the works of darkness, but instead expose and/or rebuke them (Eph 5:11). (The Greek word ἐλέγχω – elegchō means both to expose and to rebuke, it is an expose as in a courtroom exposing something as being wrong, or someone as being guilty.) Paul, in his pastoral epistles (1-2 Timothy and Titus) is very harsh on false teaching, telling Titus to make sure all Elders/Overseers/Bishops must hold firm to the faithful word which they’ve been taught so they “may be able to exhort in sound doctrine, and to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

I think one of the strongest passages about defending the faith comes out of Paul’s strong defense of the Gospel he preached to the Galatians (of which in Galatians 1:7 he says there is not actually another Gospel besides it). Paul says here in Galatians 1:8-9 this person – whether they be Paul, himself, or an angel from heaven – let a curse be on him! He is so emphatic here he says this statement twice. How much more emphatic can Paul be? He even calls a curse upon himself if he were to come to them preaching a Gospel other than the one he already preached. Can we mince words with Paul? I don’t think so, for Paul is the man who said of a brother in Corinth: “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:5, read 5:1-5 to see full context and the extent of Paul’s words). Of those who are divisive Paul said to warn them once, then twice, then have nothing more to do with them (Titus 3:10).

To Finally circle back to where I started all of this I want it known I will earnestly contend (epagōnízomai) for these five points, for the Faith. This is part of the reason for Believe Better Ministries, and why it was named such. I want to help the people of the world to Believe in Something Better. This is where this whole journey of blogging started. I have learned so much along the way, and I consider myself to still be learning. I will put forth those doctrines of the Faith and cleave to my Lord Jesus Christ.

I will try to help you believe in something better.

Sources:

  1. “Majoring on the Majors”, Zuber, John, 2018
  2. ESV Study Bible, Crossway, 2008
  3. NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 2002
  4. Recovery Version New Testament, Living Stream Ministry, 1991
  5. NET Bible®, Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C., 1996-2018,
  6. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Bible Hub, 2004–2018

To read the first article I wrote click here. I have since removed the article which gave me so many e-mails to wade through about whether I was changing my beliefs or not. As always if you would like to chat, feel free to e-mail me.

Episode 0 – Believe Something Better Podcast

Click Here to download this Episode of the Believe Something Better Podcast

This is a simultaneous release of this episode in audio and video. If you would like to watch this episode please feel free to click here.

This is the first episode of the Believe Something Better Podcast. It is an introduction to myself (Ray “RB” May IV) and my beliefs. It is also an introduction to the show itself. You can read the thought on relationships here.

We also look forward to hearing from you! If you would like to get in touch with us you can send us an e-mail here. Thank you for listening!

If you would like more information about the Willamette Bible Chapel click here.
More info on the Plymouth Brethren here.
More info on the Open Brethren here.

Just a side note it’s fitting this first episode is posted on my (RB’s) birthday.

The Epistle of Jude – Believe Something Better Commentary Series

Well we are excited to announce the first commentary in the Believe Something Better Commentary Series has been finished. (It is important for you to understand this is not the first volume of the series but rather the first commentary of the series.) The commentary on the Epistle of Jude is finished.

We are posting three things on this blog here today for you to see. The first is the commentary which has recently been finished. We are always open to hearing feedback on anything we post here and you can give us your feedback through e-mail or comments here on the blog. The second thing we’re posting is a set of study notes and an outline for Jude (as you will see the outline is in the commentary as well). These notes are based on the commentary and a set very similar will be made available for each book of the Bible. They are meant to be supplementary to the commentary. These study notes would allow you to have notes available while you study the Bible. The third and final thing we are posting is a complimentary copy of the Epistle of Jude (from the Breath of God Version). This will allow you to refer to this version of the Epistle as you go through the commentary or notes.

These three things are the first in many posts you will see in the future (Lord willing) giving you similar announcements. We do not plan on posting the commentary every time we finish one, but rather just giving a general announcement. We also have the books lumped together to allow for publishing.

We hope you enjoy this and we look forward to seeing feedback from you. Please not this is not the final layout for the commentaries, just an easy layout for it to be presented here on our website for you.

Jude to Come

So the Believe Something Better Commentary Series is about to have its first entry finished. The commentary on Jude is going through its final round of editing then it will be read to be unveiled as the inaugural entry in the series. We will be posting a version of it here under a creative commons license. We also plan on recording it as a free audio teaching here. We plan on putting Jude up here for you to see what things are going to look like.

As far as the rest of the series goes we will only be publishing the audio for free as well as notes and outlines. We plan on having these study aids available for free for everyone to download and use. The commentary series will be available for purchase as an ebook or hardcopy book with all proceeds going back into the ministry to help produce more content and upgrade the website.

All in all this update is here to let everyone know to keep your eyes peeled to see Jude coming out. We have a plan in place as far as getting through the rest of the Bible as well. We look forward to putting this forward soon.

Epistle to the 21st Century Church

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Epistle to the 21st Century Church

A letter written to the Church sent from a servant of the LORD Jesus Christ; who is His Son.

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

First let me tell you that if any one of you, my Brethren, find any fault, error or wrong thing in this letter discard it immediately for it is not of the LORD. But if you find that my writings are good and in harmony with the Word of God than heed them.

Now, Brethren, we have fallen away from the things that are of Christ and turned to the things of men. If any of you cannot quote to me John 3:16 than you must be a new believer; and for the new believer I will quote it here:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 3:16 (KJV)

Brethren think clearly, there is no qualifier presented, not even in the verses following. Do you believe me? Look it up for yourself. The Apostle Paul knew this and wrote of it in his Epistle to the Church at Ephesus. In this letter Paul told them (and through this letter us) that they were saved by grace alone not by works of the Law (Eph 2:8–9).

Brethren, if in His Word God tells us that no works gain our salvation why have we placed ourselves under the Law again? Such things the Jews tried to do before, and the Apostles spoke very clearly about this. The leaders of the churches – the Priests, Pastors and Elders – are supposed to be knowledgeable of the Word of God, why do they then not lead you to understanding of how you have become saved?

Peter, the Apostle who led the other Apostles, spoke on this when it was brought before him. He rebuked them asking why they were placing a yoke upon the Gentiles that no Jew has ever been able to bear. He then reminded them that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we are saved (Acts 15:7–11).

This rebuke was meant for all men who placed the Law on the believer – the Christian. Brethren if my salvation rested on my own shoulders and I died tomorrow I world go to Hell because I am not worthy. I am a decrepit servant who does not even deserve to work for his Master let alone be given grace by Him, but yet I am saved by the blood of Christ. I pray that my words will be heard by you that you will no longer carry a yoke on your shoulders.

Even Paul, who could count himself perfect, did not count his works as salvation, but counted them as loss for the sake of Christ. In his Epistles to the Philippians he said that if anyone has the ability to have confidence in their flesh Paul does. Then he lists his qualifications but follows this list saying that none of them can help him because these qualities are worthless when compared to knowing Christ Jesus (Phil 3:2–8). Paul’s qualifications are impressive, even amazing, he could count himself blameless before the Law. Again I say to you he still counted these qualities as worthless!

Paul was very clear on this in his exhortations to the churches and men that he had left behind him on his missionary journeys. He preached the gospel of grace and he wanted all men to know that anyone who tried to put the Law over them should not be listened to. He went so far as to curse anyone (including himself and angels) who preached a gospel contrary to what Paul preached (Gal 1:8). Because when it comes down to the end anyone who preaches contrary to Paul is saying God’s way is not good enough. So are you willing to say that God’s plan is not good enough?

God told Paul that His grace was sufficient enough (2Cor 12:9) and if His grace was sufficient enough for Paul who was the foremost (or greatest) of sinners (1Tim 1:15) than why is His grace insufficient for you? But I do exhort you as Paul did that we should not sin against God. For just as Jesus told the Adulterous Woman “Go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11) we must strive to do the same and bear fruit. For what is faith? Faith is not just sitting on your hands doing nothing but faith is believing in something, and belief is a word of action. Just as James said faith without action is dead (Jas 2:26). So in our faith must we have action that goes along with it.

What is this action? It is the love that we are commanded to perform. We are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 22:37-39). If you truly love other as yourself than how will you sin against God? This is the truth and heart of the Gospel: Not following the Law (for the Law itself places a curse on the person who does not complete all items in the Law – Deut 27:26; Gal 3:10), but rather following the love. Our example in this is our God, Himself. He gave Himself – all of Himself – so that we could be with Him; offering Himself as sacrifice so that He could give limitless grace to us. That is our example on how to love and how to live.

So do not forget that you are not under the Law, but also don’t forget that this does not allow you to be lawless. So I end this letter to the Body of Christ with Christ’s own words which He sent to Ephesus: “Return to your first love” (Rev 2:4-5).

Finally brothers do not forget to take care of one another in love, not just spiritually but if there is a physical need take care of this need as well. My prayers are with you always and may the Lord Jesus the Son of God and the Christ rain down his peace on your heads.

John: John the Baptist’s Final Testimony (3:22-36)

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Part 8: John the Baptist’s Final Testimony (3:22-36)

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Jesus now leaves Jerusalem and heads out into the “Judean countryside”. Here in this little prelude we see Jesus and John the Baptist being compared to each other. This isn’t the negative comparison that world does, but rather it is a comparison of just the facts. Then we come to verse twenty-four and we get a preview of things to come. It tells us that John wasn’t in jail yet.

From this we shift the scene just to John and his disciples. An argument arises between one of his disciples and the Jews about purification, or the purpose of baptism. It is right here in verse twenty-six where the comparison really starts. This comparison is started or stated in a negative way. “Everyone is going to Him instead of us.” This is almost a complaint on the part of John’s disciple. Can’t you feel the thought going through the man’s head and hear his winy tone of voice? He’s thinking to himself: “If you’re really from God as you say you are then why is everyone going to Jesus rather than coming to us?”

John jumps at this question without even flinching. He starts off telling them that anything that anyone has is directly from God. This really is a call for them to wake up and start thinking. From here John again points out that he is not the Messiah and jumps into a beautiful metaphor for his and Jesus’ ministries and how they complement each other. His metaphor of a groom and best man eloquently articulates this point.

The idea here is that a man will pick his best friend to be his best man at his wedding. This best friend is full of joy for his friend’s wedding. How could he not be? The next statement is because Jesus “has come to His wedding” the best man has to step out of the spotlight and allow the groom to take the spotlight. This is natural in its flow. Of course the best man must step out of the spotlight to allow the wedding to proceed. If the best man stole the spotlight would he really be the best man or rather an opponent?

John the Baptist moves her from his metaphor of marriage, or a wedding, onto telling what he means. John makes a statement about Jesus twice, here, but only makes the statement about himself once. “The one who come from above is above all,” he says about Jesus, but the one from the earth (John, himself) can only speak of earthly things. Then John goes on to restate what he had said about Jesus, but this time pointing toward heaven rather than just “above”. John deals with Jesus’ testimony next.

Here John echoes Jesus’ words from earlier in the chapter (verse 11). He starts moving into a grand statement about not only Jesus’ ministry, but who Jesus is, exactly. “The one who does accept His words,” this person will put all of themselves “on the line for this one thing: that God is truth, completely and totally.” This statement points out what we have to do to really say we believe in Jesus. We have to believe “that God is true.” (ESV) If you stop and truly think about this statement you see: How can it be any other way? How can you believe in something that you think is a lie?

John moves onto material that Jesus, Himself, covers later (Chapter 5). John succinctly gives his explanation of who Jesus is. This is how Chapter 3 closes. It started with grand, eloquent statements made by the Son of God and it is ended with statements of the authority of the Son. “The Father loves the son so much that He put everything under the Son’s control.” The WEB translates this verse “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.”

The final remarks of John the Baptist in this chapter reflect Jesus’ own in verse 18. This allows us to see the unity across teaching. So it comes down to one question at the end of this chapter: Do you believe in the Son of God, Jesus, or not?

John Jesus Teaches Nicodemus (3:1-21)

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Part 7: Jesus Teaches Nicodemus (3:1-21)

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The very outset of this chapter we receive an introduction that is quite different from the others we have seen in John’s Gospel, so far. He introduces a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a teacher of the nation of Israel, and a member of the Sanhedrin. (The Sanhedrin was the ruling council of the Jews, who were in charge of everything from politics to religion.) In other words we could say that this was a man who knew a lot and was in charge with that knowledge.

His interview with Jesus shakes him so radically that he later defends Jesus (John 7:50) and finally helps prepare Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:39). Tradition holds that he became a believer. He starts this conversation with an interesting confession, not just for himself but for all the Pharisees. “We know that You are sent by God.” This deconstructs the Pharisees’ whole stance against Him! The fun thing for me to look at is Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush but jumps right into the heart of His message, almost ignoring Nicodemus’ statement and answering the question that he is asking in his heart. This occurs in verse 3.

Nicodemus was understandably confused. I can almost see him taking a step back. The information Jesus just thrust his way is so vastly different from the rest of his knowledge as well as physically impossible. Nicodemus naturally points that out to us in verse 4. Jesus tries to move Nicodemus’ eyes from physical birth to spiritual birth showing that He is talking about spiritual rebirth rather than anything physical. Nicodemus, however, will have nothing to do with it.

With Nicodemus’ inability to understand comes a radical insight to Judaism and the belief of the Jews. The Jews did not see thing spiritually but rather physically. This comes directly out of their Holy Scriptures (the Old Testament). You can see in the way that blessings and curses are written: “Do this and you will be blessed with that; don’t do it and you will be cursed instead.” The blessing always being something physical (i.e. a long life, much wealth, much land etc.) the curses are also just as physical. It can be easy to see – at least in some cases – then why the Jews (even in many cases Jesus’ own disciples) did not understand Jesus. We automatically think of spiritual things, but the Jews? Religion was always physical to the Jews. One other place this can be seen is in their reverence for a specific location as where God is: the Temple.

In response to Nicodemus Jesus gives quite a strong rebuke: “You’re supposed to be the teacher of Israel and you don’t even understand the simple things?” This direct response is so poignant not only to this Pharisee, but any religious leaders. If Jesus were here teaching us would He say the same to us? “You’re supposed to be the teacher of My people” [the Christians] “and yet you don’t understand the simple things?” Could you answer Him?

This rebuke brings us to one of the most quoted and beautiful monologues that Jesus delivered. In my opinion it rivals the Sermon on the Mount in its content and beauty. He starts off with His iconic statement: “I tell you the truth” in other translations it is translated differently. In the WEB it is “Most certainly I tell you”; in the King James Version it is translated “Verily, Verily I say unto thee”; in both the New American Standard Bible and the ESV it is translated “Truly, Truly, I say to you”. This, in the Greek, is “Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι” which is literally “Amen, amen, I say to you”. This phrase is almost used as a punctuation to point out the reader needs to pay attention to what is about to be said.

Jesus moves onto expressing His deity (Godhood) here. How could He not be God if He is not only speaking from his own knowledge but from his own experience? He is speaking only from His own knowledge and His own experience as God the Son. Still Nicodemus (and many others) refuse to believe His words. His follow up question is blatantly challenging to the way that Jews think and their religious point of view.

From here Jesus moves into yet another expression of His deity: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven”. He is simply telling Nicodemus that no one has gone up to heaven except for a certain person who was there already. This person is? Jesus doesn’t say “Me, you ninny,” instead He gives a term that He has used to refer to himself throughout His ministry: “the Son of Man”. For Jesus this is as clear a statement of who He is as you are likely to receive. You cannot skirt around this to try and say “Jesus never said He was God” because clearly here, He is saying He comes from heaven and is the only one who can do so.

In the next two verses Jesus moves into a beautiful metaphor. Nicodemus, being a Pharisee, had the entire Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) memorized by heart. Jesus points Nicodemus’ attention back to the Torah by bringing up Moses. Moses was told by God to raise up a serpent on a pole in order to heal the Israelites after they had spoken against God and Moses. Jesus points to this as the same thing that must happen to Him (the Son of Man). This is for us to look to the cross and be saved not just from physical ailments but from eternal, spiritual death.

Jesus now says the most famous verse in the Bible. Many people, Christian or not, can recite this verse from memory. In the King James Version (KJV) it was translated this way: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The meaning of this verse, and the ones following it, resonates deeply in the hearts and minds of not only Christians but people around the world.

These verses, here, point out the eloquence of this particular response and in Jesus’ speaking in general. The next two verses I really like and they have really resonated with me. In the ESV they are translated: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:17-18 ESV). These verses point out not just the purpose of Jesus’ Ministry but also point to the freedom from accusation of the believer.

He starts out in verse 17 pointing Nicodemus’ focus back to the Torah, again, in equating His Ministry to the blessing of Abraham in Genesis. In Genesis God tells Abraham (still Abram at this point) that through him all nations (or families) will be blessed. Jesus uses similar verbiage here to explain His own ministry. This is not just His earthly ministry, but the spiritual ministry after His death, resurrection and ascension. He moves from there to explaining the spiritual state of the believer. This is a great statement. We’re not under condemnation! The WEB translates that word (which is κρίνεται – krinetai) as judged and one thing that is just awesome is there is a period after it.

We are not condemned, Period!

Here, in the end of this section, Jesus explains what the judgment is. This judgment shows what exactly the human heart is like. “The Light came into the world, but the people wanted the darkness more than the light because the things they did were evil.” This is exactly the way that the human heart works. We’re given the most amazing opportunity and we turn it down in order to be able to just keep doing what we’re doing. We don’t want to be exposed for how bad we actually are.

For anyone who actually does come to the light. They won’t be scared because their work will clearly be seen for the work of God. That is who we want to be: Those whose work is clearly seen. That is the only place that as a believer we will feel comfortable. God knows that we will mess up, but because of His grace He loves us anyway and there is no condemnation.

That is my hope for my life. What is your?

John Jesus Cleanses the Temple (2:13-25)

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Part 6: Jesus Cleanses the Temple (2:13-25)

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We are now moving into Jesus’ first public Passover. What is the importance of the Passover? To answer this question we must go all the way back to the book of Exodus. Specifically we want to turn to Exodus chapter 12. In this chapter we have what the Passover is laid out in clear language. The Passover was when the Lord passed over Egypt killing every first born man or animal except those of the people who had put the blood of a pure lamb on their door frame. (As we will see later Christ is our Passover Lamb.) God later gave commands about this being a covenant between Israel and Himself, and the lamb was sacrificed to God to fulfill this covenant and cover the sins of the people for that year.

Passover has a special meaning for us because Jesus was the final Passover Lamb. The Passover Lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the people for one year. Jesus as the Passover Lamb, gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin for all time. And so because of Jesus’ sacrifice during the judgment God will Passover our sin and read from the book of life. This is the importance of Passover to us as believers. During Passover Jesus goes to the temple and finds that the Jews have turned the sacred things into a form of business. This brings out His wrath. Why did this make Him so angry?

This made Him angry because these people were bringing sin into the Holy Temple (known as the House of the Lord). They were exchanging money (at a price) and selling animals (probably for more than they were worth). One thing to note here is that Jesus didn’t just fly off the handle, but instead sat down and methodically thought the whole thing out. We know this because in verse 15 it tells us that, “He made for Himself a whip of cords”. This is a task that He would have just done in a few moments but would take some time (maybe as much as a whole day). That means Jesus was thinking it out before hand, then, when He was done is when He “drove them all out of the Temple, along with their animals.” He throws over the tables scattering coins everywhere. Then He delivers the line that exclaims the heart of the issue: “Stop making My Father’s house a place of business!”

The next interchange is the first of many that takes place between Jesus and the Jews. The Jews (as recorded several times in the Old Testament; one specific time is Deuteronomy 9:6) were (and are) a stubborn bunch. They considered themselves right and everyone else wrong. This caused them to argue with everyone, even themselves. This is not atypical for the Jewish people.

They come to Him and demand what His authority for cleansing the temple is. Jesus’ answer is cryptic at first glance. He tells them that if they “destroy this temple,” He would rebuild it in three days. For the meaning of this statement and the following one by the author (v. 21) we must look at three passages. Let’s start systematically by looking at the Old Testament first. The first two passages are 2 Samuel 7:1-17 and its parallel passage of 1 Chronicles 17:1-15. This is where God makes His covenant with David (known as the Davidic Covenant). In these two passages (which some believe to be a Messianic Prophecy) God promises David an heir who will build God a house and whose throne would last forever. You’ll notice that the language of where this house and throne will be is non-specific.

In the time before Jesus there had already been two candidates to fill this position. These two were Solomon – who built the first temple – and Zerubbabel – who built the second temple. Both of these men were direct descendents of David in the Kingly Line. Solomon in fact was his heir who took the throne before he died. Neither of these men, however, had a throne established forever, and both of their temples were destroyed (Solomon’s Temple in 587 BC and Zerubbabel’s Temple in 70 AD). These two men had both been viewed as a completion of this promise until it was seen that they weren’t.

Now what does Jesus say about the place of worship? We find His words in chapter 4 of John. In verse 23 He tells the Samaritan Woman that a time was coming – and had come already – when people would worship God in their spirits. These words turn the believer into the house of God! This fulfills the words that God told David but in a completely different way than Solomon or any other heir of David ever could. This establishes a house for God that all human kind could worship in. So this must be what Jesus is talking about here. Verses 21 and 22 help clarify that really Jesus is saying kill me and I’ll be back in three days.

Finally at the end of this chapter we come to a conclusion about this Passover and one more point to show us Jesus’ deity. We have here a statement that points to Jesus being completely understanding of human nature. We know from other scripture that man only looks at the outward appearance but God knows the heart. In this section many see His miracles and believe in Him, but He is still keeping His own council. It says that, “He knew what was in man’s hearts and minds.” Most translations put it this way: “He knew what was in man.” This is a statement to say what I paraphrased it as. If it was the more literal meaning then it really has no meaning or purpose. But He knew what was in our hearts and minds.

He knows what is in our hearts and minds still He loved enough to come to Earth and die for us. Can you think of anyone who loves more? I can’t.

John Wedding at Cana (2:1-12)

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Part 5: Wedding at Cana (2:1-12)

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Now we get to move into chapter 2. Three days after Jesus calls Philip He is invited to a wedding. Not just Him, but all His disciples as well. This is a really interesting scene. Here we have Jesus, who has started His public ministry and His mother who was apparently helping with the catering of the party. This probably means that it was the wedding of a relative of Jesus. During this party they had drank all the wine and Mary comes to Jesus and tells Him so. This interchange is quite interesting and kind of comical. Jesus’ response to His mother is – at first glance – pretty typical of a parent/child relationship. The last sentence of Jesus’ response makes the reason for His response clear. “It’s not my time yet.” The WEB translates it this way: “My hour has not yet come.” His appointed hour of revelation was not yet here.

His mother doesn’t even respond to this statement, but immediately turns and orders the servants. Her words are simple and she gives the servants a simple order. Have you ever heard your mom make such a simple command but you couldn’t help but do anything but follow it? Mary does that here giving the servants a command to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Jesus doesn’t question His mother again but moves on to the task that she appointed to Him. There is a lot of imagery and metaphors in the miracle (Jesus’ first miracle). We start out with the first verse (verse 6).

In this verse we have water pots, large water pots. They held about 20 to 30 gallons of water. These pots are important because they were used for something specific: Purification. These were used for rituals of purification in Judaism. Jesus then tells them to fill the six water pots. After they do so Jesus doesn’t make any loud words or calling to the Father. He just simply says, “Now take some to the host of the party.” The scene shifts from Jesus and the servants to the party. We’re told, here, that the wine that comes out was the best of the day. It’s interesting to consider if we look at this miracle through the last supper we see something interesting happing. These pots, which were used by the Jews in their purification rituals, were useless for such rituals. God comes in and gives his perfect Lamb as sacrifice and the Old Testament Laws are fulfilled.

In this metaphor we can see that man through his attempts to fulfill the Law was utterly useless, but we see the sacrificial of Christ (the wine) is miraculously added to the situation and the best thing happens: We are saved from sin and death. How great is that? After man’s attempts to fulfill the Old Testament (the wine earlier in the party) God miraculously sends down the best. Is there anything better?

John adds on a tag here to let us know that this is the first sign that Jesus gave as a glimpse of His glory. This is important as we see many glimpses of Jesus’ glory in the Gospel of John. In fact in the first half of the book there are seven signs that will be presented to us in order to prove Jesus’ deity and His messianic identity. The final statement of verse 11 is key to the premise of the book. It says, “His disciples believed Him.” This is important, because how would we find out about Him if His disciples didn’t believe Him?

This is His first sign to show us His glory. How great is that? What signs can you think of that Jesus performed?